This post will be photo free. There is a very good reason for this. The Monday Mob are essentially an underground secret society. They have been around for quite a while, years in fact, lurking in the shadows, furtively whispering messages to one another to agree a rendezvous. They emerge from winter shadows at the designated time and place, head out for their companionable slow and steady run, and then once again disappear into the mists and trees of Sheffield. That’s what I’d heard anyway. A mysterious gathering, other runners would speak of them, but no-one seemed to have actually seen them or run with them. Like a sort of benign urban myth, you know the kind of thing, a friend of a friend met someone whose neighbour’s hairdresser’s post-person had seen them out running together… once… allegedly.
There was little to go on quite frankly, until, unexpectedly, back at Halloween parkrun at Sheffield Hallam they seemed to quite deliberately out themselves. Admittedly they were disguised to look as inconspicuous as possible, wearing lime green witches hats, and rattling collection tins in aid of parkrun as they gamely sold cake (good call) to the runners of Sheffield. To be completely fair, they may not have intended to be publicly identified and outed in this way. What happened, was that the race director alerted parkrunners to the Monday Mob’s fund raising initiative, and that was that, cat out of the proverbial bag, not going back in not for anyone. The group now had a name, and members of the group had recognisable faces. They were well and truly in the open and in the public domain, ready or not!
Clearly, I did make a donation and have some cake (just to be polite) and so put some faces to some at least of this elusive gathering. They all had big smiles and a welcoming demeanour. I also recognised at least a couple as regular parkrunners, and more importantly, parkrunners of about my speed and running temperament. That is, happy with the slow and steady complete rather than compete approach. Got me thinking.
So it was a couple of weeks ago, having done some shark like circling of those I recognised back at parkrun for a few weeks before, I approached one of the Monday Mob directly, and asked if they were up for a fresh face. The person I spoke to was incredibly friendly and welcoming, and immediately gave me her contact details, perhaps it wasn’t going to be quite as hard to infiltrate this group as I’d first imagined, would there be a catch? Apparently not. Upshot of all this shenanigans is that tonight, I headed off to join them. Venturing out in the dark and cold to embrace whatever initiation may await me. How I levered myself off the sofa I’m not entirely sure, but I’m very glad I did.
I strapped on my TomTom and again by jogging to the rendezvous point in an attempt to up my mileage, was ridiculously early, and had to hang around feeling self-conscious in the dark wearing my builder’s tabard (all reflective stripes and luminous yellow in extra extra large). Eventually another runner appeared and was really encouraging. Others emerged from the gloom, and all were so friendly it was like being swamped in a really sincere (but not inappropriate or claustrophobic) hug. I was made to feel really welcome, it was genuinely lovely. I’m not sure how many of us there were, maybe 8 or so? I was a bit worried that by prostituting myself around other running groups in this way I might be being a bit disloyal to Smilies, and come across as flaky and/or disloyal to this new group, but actually at least a couple were also Smilies, and many do parkrun and other stuff too. The woman I paired up with said on one occasion only a couple of them turned up, and they ended up hooking up at the back of a Frontrunner escorted run which had coincidentally just headed out from their shop. Wow, Monday nights are positively congested around Hunters’ Bar!
I’m coming to the conclusion that the running community in Sheffield is really a complicated Venn diagram or spirograph of overlapping circles. Lots of us toy with a variety of groups, and I think maybe it doesn’t matter too much – we can simultaneously embrace multiple identities without developing multiple personality disorders as such.
I will always be primarily a Smiley, but I think there’s room to be a Marshal Mudder at an Endurer Dash; an Accelerator on a Thursday wood run; a Hobbiteer out in the woods with my yomping buddies; a parkrunner on a Saturday; an intermittent Rustling’s Runner (if I ever get fast enough to keep up with them) – so why not a Monday Mobster now and again too? I guess if I was out their winning national or international races it might be a bit more complex, but I can’t see clubs fighting to retain sole rights to sponsor me. All good. One day if I can be bothered I might do an actual Venn diagram of Sheffield running clubs, but I have a feeling it will always be a project for tomorrow, mañana, as the saying goes.
I wanted to join the Monday group because I think the steadier pace will suit me, the Rustling Runners who also head out on a Monday, but a bit later are way too fast for me to keep up without feeling like either my chest will burst or I will cry, possibly both. Also, although I have significantly upped my running mileage in the last couple of weeks, I haven’t been doing any road running at all, because I don’t like it frankly, but it will do me good to get some miles on the clock on tarmac, how else am I ever to even get to the start of the Sheffield Half? The Monday Mob do road running at this time of year. Most importantly, they seem a companionable and friendly group, what’s not to like?
So greetings were exchanged, introductions made. I couldn’t believe quite how nice and inclusive everyone was, really encouraging and apparently genuinely pleased to have a newcomer join in the fun (though I know from personal experience, that the novelty of having me in the midst may wear off quite soon, I’ll enjoy the honeymoon period whilst it lasts…) I found out a bit of history of the group, it started as part of an Active Sheffield (or something) initiative, and that meant led runs for a few months. Once the funding dried up, the group continued under its own steam, which is a pretty impressive example of sustainability and capacity building of which any public health initiative should be proud. It was great. There was a bit of discussion about where to go, and then we headed of towards town (Waitrose to be precise), I never run that route, it was reasonably lit, and we did go at an easy pace, I was able to chat away with my running buddy. A fellow Smiley I recognised her, but haven’t really spoken at length before. It was really nice and companionable. We swapped tales of how we got into running and why we do it, most bonding, and inspirational too – for me at least. She is coming back after a pretty major injury, such tenacity to get fit again is very impressive.
It was quite an urban run (though not exactly parkour to be fair, in my head this is sort of the stuff we were doing-ish), and it made a change. We even went under an underpass at one point and alongside the dual carriageway before we turned back towards are starting point at the Hunters’ Bar roundabout. I really enjoyed it, much more than I’d hoped, it was a comfortable pace, atmosphere and welcoming group. I’m sure I’ll be back.
So I thanked my new Best Friends Forever, and after hugs of farewell and promises to do it all again soon (although not next week as they’ll all be at the pub instead – this group gets better and better) we dispersed through the park. They were a little apologetic about this ‘not running’ aspect of their running diary, but personally, I think team bonding, and group nurturing is fantastically important and a very sensible approach to maintaining motivation in my book. It may take cake to entice a Smiley (or prosecco), the Monday Mob are apparently more hot chocolate/ pub people. It’s good to do cross training, I think my running Venn diagram will find room for both!
We said our proper goodbyes by some of the cars parked in Endcliffe park, and I set off at a gentle jog to go home. I didn’t have a head torch, so bottled out of running through the park itself, instead heading off down Rustlings Road. I found myself at the corner just in time for the rendezvous with the regular Rustlings Runners Monday group. It was a bit surreal, as they at first assumed I’d come to join them, whereas I was actually all garlanded in smiles because I’d got endorphins flowing post run, and because I knew I would not have to do any more running until tomorrow, they on the other hand, being stronger runners than me were all garlanded in smiles at the prospect of being just about to embark on a run in the cold and dark right now… I had been caught red-handed, moonlighting with another group. Uh oh… Even so, it was really nice to see them, and we ran together up Rustlings Road where we paused for a quick catch up before they sprinted off up the hills in the darkness and I loped home at a rather more sedate pace. I am very fond of these running buddies too, but I am not in their league, I was puffed just doing the 1 km or whatever it is, up Rustlings Road to the corner, though it probably did me good to have to push on a bit. Definitely at a speed where I could no longer comfortably talk and run though. There was plenty of time however to identify future running challenges. Longshaw next weekend is a possible, though clashes with the Smiley off-road, the half-marathon coming up too of course. Get me and my running calendar insights! I did my usual thing of being really enthusiastic as post run I feel invincible, it is sometimes hard to recapture this enthusiasm the following morning…
So, this is what I ended up doing despite myself, once again a triumph for my ‘conscientious if not keen’ gene. I said I’d go, and go I did, and that ended up being a respectable extra 5.6 miles on the mileometer, and my first road run in months. I don’t really count parkrun, as those footpaths are a bit more forgiving than the pavement slabs of the roadside. Hooray! All in all, a very positive Monday Mob initiation. Also a great end to the day which started catastrophically. Oh, why was that I hear you say? Well, I wouldn’t want you to think I’m being a drama queen or attention gaining or anything, but it was pretty dire I can tell you. I’d woken early, and had a blast of energetic hoovering, washing up and tidying, before settling down at my laptop to do some writing work I’ve been putting off for some time. To reward myself for my domestic goddess like achievements, I made myself a really perfect cup of coffee. As I sat down and put the mug down beside me, by some freak of gravity, combined with the ill-judged juxtaposition of my over-full desk tidy to the mug, I somehow knocked not one, but two permanent marker pens. They sort of catapulted out of the desk tidy in a perfect arc, landing upside down right in my mug of coffee. I was really, really displeased. I wish now, I’d had the foresight to take a snap shot of this accident, it was rather newsworthy after all. However, at the time, I was way too upset. Not only was my caffeine fix ruined, I had to do quite a lot of both mopping up and pen salvage. Those permanent marker pens cost more than you think – or would do, if they hadn’t mysteriously found their way back to my house from an unspecified work place some years ago.
My desk tidy is fabulous though, I made it myself hoping to submit it as a ‘top tip’ to Take-a-Break magazine as it’s made out of an old poster tube, decorated with the cover of take-a-break and then sticky backed plastic. I made a set, one for me, and one for each of my most favourite work colleagues, four in total. I’ve had mine nigh on 15 years I should think, and it’s still quite as lovely as the day it was created. I like to imagine my friends/colleagues have similarly treasured theirs for all these years, but then again, I harbour a lot of misjudged fantasies. Don’t we all? You know what, I’m going to go and photograph it now to share with you – I won’t do an absolute dramatic reconstruction of the incident itself, but you will get to see the desk tidy, and the ceramic coaster that was the landing point for my mug. I fully accept I could probably have done a better risk assessment in advance of this manoeuvre, but I need your support with this, not your contempt. I did submit this brilliant and practical idea to Take-a-Break as intended by the way, but for some bizarre reason they never snapped it up for their top tips page. Their loss.
So that’s my running done for another day, thank you Monday Mob for the welcome, I’ll be back, yes indeedy I will! Now I just have to review the Smiletastic stats, the highlight of my week for the first quarter of the year. This is living, it really is, here is an upbeat motivational quote to prove it!